About four months ago I embarked on a course of medication for high blood pressure. For some time I’d been warned that I was marginal with a reading of 140/90 so I decided it was time to start looking after myself. I was a heavy smoker and drinker. My only redeeming factor was that I walk with my dogs every day for about an hour – and that’s vigorous walking, up and down steep hills.
I was started on a calcium antagonist and within a few days I had virtually lost the will to live. I had no energy at all. I’d lost all motivation. In the most degrading epsiode of all, one morning I found myself prostrate on the sofa watching “Homes Under the Hammer”. That’s when I knew it was serious.
I took myself straight off that poison and went back to see my GP. My blood pressure reading was now 168/100. He advised a change to a thiazide diuretic. Being the not so patient patient that I am, I insisted on a full explanation as far as my “O” level science was capable of understanding.
This time it was more subtle. My energy, motivation and enthusiasm was sapped gradually. As my positive life signs went down my thirst rocketed to absurd proportions. After a month or so I was regularly up six times a night with a raging thirst and a full bladder. When I cleaned out the space behind the passenger seat in my car I had two carrier bags full of empty drink bottles.
In the meantime, I gave up smoking. I give the pharmaceutical industry credit for this. A month of patches and a nicotine inhaler weaned me off the evil weed easily. About this I am both pleased and proud. I have at least one “cigarette moment” every day but I am not going back to it. Although I can recognise no physiological benefit at all (if anything I seem to get more breathless now), I am much richer and everything around me is cleaner as a result.
The next visit to my GP saw my pressure reduced to 150/95. Better but not good enough. He advised me to start taking an ACE inhibitor as well as the diuretic.
I researched ACE inhibitors and was horrified at the range of side effects and contraindications. Then, suddenly, coming fast up behind and undertaking me before I knew what was happening (forgive my blushes) I discovered I was impotent. One embarrassing date and then a dawning realisation that nothing was happening, even involuntarily. No more waking up with a big itch!
I’m not ready to give up my sex life just yet. The one and only criticism I have of my GP is that he never warned me of this side effect. I have also cut my drinking by a huge proportion. From a half bottle of whisky upwards a day I am now comfortable with a single glass of wine or a small beer. In the last few weeks my motivation has gone again. I can’t be bothered with long walks with the dogs anymore. Just half an hour out in the mornings and I’m exhausted. I’m not interested in anything. My occasional lunchtime nap has become a necessity. Sometimes, even before midday I feel so exhausted, I just can’t wait to go back to bed.
Four days ago I stopped the diuretic and yesterday I felt like I had got my life back. I have so much more energy. I’m enthusiastic as I can’t remember for months. I fair romped up the hill with the dogs this morning. My thirst is calming down and I was only up twice last night. My mojo isn’t back yet but I can feel a little twitch developing. Come Christmas time I advise you to lock up your daughters once again.
The punch line? My blood pressure is now 170/110. I may be heading for a massive stroke or heart attack any minute but at least I’ll die happy. Despite giving up smoking and decimating my alcohol consumption, my blood pressure is much worse than when I started. So what does that tell me?
I have no idea at all but at least now I have a smile on my face!